Monday, February 10, 2014

Interview: 'RoboCop' director José Padilha

Recently Padilha, the Brazilian director of 'Elite Squad' fame, answered some of my questions regarding his February 14, 2014 release, his interest in the subject and a little more.


Joel Kinnaman and Gary Oldman in a still from RoboCop 2014.

“The future brings a concussion of integrating man and machine; it’s unavoidable, it’s happening right now and it’s going to be ever-present more and more and that’s the fact of the matter. Robots and Machines are here to stay and they are going to get better and better.” – José Padilha

The original Robocop came in 1987. Directed by Paul Verhoeven (Total Recall, Basic Instinct) this dystopian Sci-fi did fairly well as it spawned a franchise including merchandise, two sequels, TV productions, comic book adaptations and video games. Peter Weller played police officer Alex Murphy in the film, who is murdered and then revived by the malevolent corporation Omni Consumer Products as a superhuman cyborg law enforcer 'RoboCop'. Now on February 14, 2014 a reboot of this film series is coming to theatres in India. The new RoboCop stars Joel Kinnaman in the title role. Gary Oldman plays Dr. Dennett who created RoboCop. Two important negative roles are played by Samuel L. Jackson and Michael Keaton.

Earlier, in 2005, Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan, Noah 2014) was to direct the film for a tentative 2010 release, but, it was delayed numerous times. Then José Padilha signed on in 2011 whose latest movie, Elite Squad: The Enemy Within, became the most commercially successful Brazilian film in history. This sequel to the 2007 movie, Elite Squad, was selected as Brazil's official Academy Awards' entry in 2012 for Best Foreign Language Film, though it didn't make the final shortlist.

Padilha's first feature was Bus 174 (2002) a documentary about a poor young man, Sandra Do Nascimento, who bungled a robbery and ended up holding the passengers on a bus hostage for four hours. It's about the incident, the poor conditions of people living in Rio de Janeiro and how the criminal justice system in Brazil treats the lower classes. His film Secrets of the Tribe premiered at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival to critical acclaim.

Q & A with him:

Padilha, during the shoot of Elite Squad-2.
Do you think Joel Kinnaman was the right choice for the film as a lead, since very few global audiences know the Swedish-American actor?
I spent a lot of time trying to find the right actor for this role, and Joel Kinnaman, after delivering a great first audition, was the one that kept coming back and doing it better and better. And even though we didn’t have a finished script then, but only a couple of scenes for him to read, every time he returned he just nailed it. And that kept on happening until the moment I said: ‘Guys, let’s stop looking. We have him!’

Still, he might not be able to compete with movies stars like Robert Downey, Jr., Hugh Jackman or Henry cavill.
Actually, our RoboCop is a little bit different. He’s got more emotions and he isn’t completely shut down. In our movie he suddenly wakes up in China, and when he sees what’s left of him he wants to die. So in a character that goes through all this transformation, you need a great actor and not necessarily a movie star. Joel was an excellent actor and he played this character brilliantly!

Have you seen Indian Superhero flicks such as "Krish-3" or "Ra.One"?
No, not really.

You haven't seen any Indian movie?
I have not seen any Indian Superhero movies, but yes, I have seen some Indian films. I have seen a documentary by an Indian Filmmaker at Sundance, and it was a really good film and a lot of fun as it showed us a lot about India and the culture. That was the last Indian movie that I saw and I really liked it.

What is your perception of our cinema?
Indian Cinema is one of the most alive Cinemas today; if I have to think in the world today India is one of the only few places where Cinema is striving without any false effort. I know that in India the format of films is longer and it has a lot of music in them and it’s a completely different kind of filmmaking and I honestly don’t know if I’d be capable to make a movie in India with the same kind of style.

If an Indian remake was being planned would you be OK with the idea of Hindi RoboCop? Would you direct?
I would of course, you know and I mean I would love to! And the fact is I would be completely ok with it, but other people might not (laughs).

In this age of drones, unnatural limbs and scientific progress, the idea of RoboCop seems quite possible. What do you think?
RoboCop as a concept is merging Mankind and Machines, and it’s very present now. If you go on to the internet and google you’ll find everything you need; you can see that ships are able to procure gigantic chemical viles just by beeping; and you can see for yourself that all of this is possible, it’s all on the web. The future brings a concussion of integrating man and machine; it’s unavoidable, it’s happening right now and it’s going to be ever-present more and more and that’s the fact of the matter. Robots and Machines are here to stay and they are going to get better and better.
    Paul Verhoeven created an iconic character that embodied the philosophical concept that automated law enforcement could lead to fascism. Funnily enough he did this in 1987, but now we are very close to this actually happening.
    If you open the newspaper every day you are going to end up reading about drones at least 50 times a year, if not more... Now they are piloted, but we are soon going to move on to drones that pilot themselves and robots that go to war and make their own decisions according to very sophisticated hardware and software without people being involved. This is going to happen. It was already in Verhoeven’s movie and it is also the reason I wanted to make this one, because what is being discussed in RoboCop is happening now and is going to be very prominent in the future.

Elite Squad-2
'Elite Squad' seems your finest movie till date. Have you been able to bring the human-emotional-situational details of 'Elite Squad' in 'RoboCop'?
I mean, one thing that’s very different in the movie is how RoboCop becomes RoboCop. He wakes up one morning to lose all his emotions to become a machine, and we show all the drama and we show what happens when he goes through with that transformation. Another big difference in our film is the family. We show what’s going on over there and the changing relationship with his son, and how it’s awkward for him, and impossible for him to have a normal life again. Those things are very different and unexplored in the new movie you know.
    So a big part of the movie focuses on the on-going human drama and Murphy’s humanity as he is half-man and half-robot. He cannot make love to his wife, he cannot touch his son and I mean his life has been changed forever, and he has to finally manage it with his emotions because that’s what left of him, that’s all. The movie is, in a certain attempt about the human ambition and what would it be to be human again. So yes I have focused a lot on the situational-emotional details for this film.

Why "Police/crime films" seem to be your favourite subject?
You know, for me, I think in order to develop a state you have to develop a quality security force. So in mankind anybody who has ever developed a state, nation or region has also developed security. You can learn a lot about society, and a country and the nature of a country by looking at the security. It’s very interesting to look at, so if a country is honest people and honest security forces with lesser crime, it is a developed country as opposed to if you have corrupt law enforcements or corrupt politicians. So sometimes you can just look at the police force of the country and it will tell you everything, that’s why I find it so interesting as a filmmaker.

होज़े पजीला ब्राजील के फ़िल्मकार हैं। हालांकि उन्होंने 2002 में 'बस 174' और 2007 में 'एलीट स्क्वॉड' जैसी दो बेहतरीन फिल्में बनाकर अपने मुल्क में अच्छा मुकाम पा लिया था लेकिन उन्हें वैश्विक पहचान मिली 2012 में, जब उनकी 'एलीट स्क्वॉड: द एनिमी विदिन' को ऑस्कर की बेस्ट फॉरेन लैंग्वेज श्रेणी में ब्राजील ने देश की आधिकारिक एंट्री के तौर पर भेजा। हालांकि फिल्म जीती नहीं। ...लेकिन 46 साल के होज़े की इस फिल्म से प्रभावित होकर एमजीएम स्टूडियो ने उन्हें अपनी मशहूर 'रोबोकॉप फ्रैंचाइजी' की रीबूट का निर्देशन डैरेन एरॉनफस्की (ब्लैक स्वॉन, नोआ-2014) से लेकर दे दिया। 'रोबोकॉप' की कहानी 2028 में स्थित है जहां एक पुलिसकर्मी एलेक्स मर्फी (जोएल किनामैन) कार बम धमाके में बुरी तरह जख्मी हो जाता है और उसके क्षत-विक्षत शरीर को रोबोकॉप प्रोग्रैम में शामिल किया जाता है। उसके बेकार अंगों के स्थान पर रोबोट-अंग लगाए जाते हैं और वह देश का हीरो बनकर उभरता है। फिल्म में गैरी ओल्डमैन, माइकल कीटन और सेमुअल एल. जैक्सन जैसे हॉलीवुड अभिनेता भी होंगे।
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